Sir Cliff Richard: How singer’s ‘companion’ changed star amid 80th birthday celebration

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Sir Cliff marked his 80th birthday today by sharing an unseen photograph from 1947 in his birthplace of Lucknow, India. The throwback snap showed the dark-haired future star with his sisters Jacqui and Donna, one year before they moved to Surrey. Sir Cliff went on to relish overwhelming success during more than six decades in the music industry and remains one of the world’s best-selling singers. When asked if he would retire the Summer Holiday hitmaker claimed: “I don’t think that’s in my vocabulary.” Sir Cliff, who rose to fame during the late Fifties, has also had to address rumours about his love life and sexual orientation over the years. The crooner, who lived as a bachelor for many years, has a close friendship with self-professed “companion” John McElynn. He gave an intimate insight into their relationship during a candid interview, where he revealed the way his confidant had helped him. 

Sir Cliff admitted that he savoured his close connection with Mr McElynn because he never “particularly liked living alone” and their mutual interests. 

They were introduced by friend Pamela Devis and after a phone call arranged to meet in New York at his future companion’s family home in 2001. 

The singer admitted that he planned an “escape route” in case they didn’t get along but after they met he realised: “I needn’t have bothered.”

During that first meet, they played tennis and after a meal with his family, Sir Cliff realised they would become “very firm friends”. 

In his 2009 autobiography My Life, My Way, the singer explained that he was especially taken by Mr McElynn because his family didn’t know who he was – because the star never “broke” the US market.

Sir Cliff confessed: “It has been so rare for me to find friends I know like me for myself, I am not always the best judge of character.”

The pair’s “close friendship” was strengthened by their passion for sport and Christian beliefs – Mr McElynn was a Roman Catholic priest before he left the clergy.

Sir Cliff explained that shortly after they met “he hadn’t any thought at the beginning about giving up the priesthood” but was on a sabbatical.

He continued: “But when it became clear he was thinking of the possibility I suggested he might help me with some charitable projects and he said he would.”

Mr McElynn often travels with Sir Cliff and takes over control of the majority of the star’s admin tasks. 

He wrote: “Crucially he knows how to work computers and send and pick up emails and handle all those technological things that seem to be so vital today, and that I know so little about.

“Nearly all my communications with the office now go through him.”

During their journeys during tours and between his multiple homes, Mr McElynn helps the star to avoid being mobbed by fans.

He told the Daily Mail in 2013: “I don’t like travelling alone. I feel at my most vulnerable when I’m at an airport because there are loads of people there and I think, ‘What if I get spotted?’ 

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“John is prepared to say, ‘Sorry, we’ve got to move on’ when I get surrounded – he’s also a spiritual mentor to me, as my former manager Bill Latham was until he retired.”

The singer also claimed Mr McElynn was “very good” at ensuring his four properties – in Sunningdale, Portugal, Barbados and New York – were all well-maintained.

He said: “I’m amazed at how good [he is at it], because you wouldn’t necessarily think a priest would be good at dealing with workmen or architects or even a vineyard but he’s very practical.”

Sir Cliff’s sexuality has often been speculated about and in 2014 he rejected rumours that he was gay during an interview on the Australian talk show A Current Affair. 

He added: “Who cares? It doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I have got gay friends. Most people have gay friends.

“If I was gay would it make any difference? Would you not come to my concerts because I was gay? I hope not.”

Sir Cliff defended his life as a bachelor and stated that he didn’t need to tie the knot to find contentment.

He wrote in his book: “People often make the mistake of thinking that only marriage equals happiness.

“I may suddenly meet someone and feel differently, but right now I am not sure marriage would enhance my happiness.”

Cliff Richard’s autobiography My Life, My Way was published by Headline Review in 2009 and is available here.

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